August 27th, 2010
진홍 Jinhong has several farmers in his family and his uncle has a farm in 경산 Gyeongsan, very close to where he lives. He mentioned that he wanted to go help on the farm, and Karjam and I thought that’d be good, too. But the first day (the 26th) we went up 갓바위 Gatbawi, part of 팔공산 Palgongsan (mtn) with a very famous Buddha statue of the medicine Buddha from 638 AD. This was out of hope that Georgy would come with us, but she chickened out of the hike in the humidity and went back down when we’d hardly started. The 27th we were agreed we’d go to the farm, but from the start of the day it was super high humidity and Jinhong was hesitant. I asked him to call and see what was going on, and indeed the family was working, so we went to join them. In the morning, honestly, we weren’t that much help. They were at the tail end of harvesting and sorting one patch of grapes, and they sent me into the patch with a big silver pail and a pair of clippers, but the grapes I was taking were clearly inferior. Actually the grapes were fine, but they were of uneven sizes, loosely aligned (not a classic bunch) and there were rotten grapes amongst them to be removed before placing the rest in the pail. It turned out that most of the grapes I picked were boxed up for us to take back to Seoul.
Karjam with Jinhong and his nephews. Jinhong's aunt and uncle (driving the boxes of grapes out of the work shed after everything was done).
After another lunch prepared by Jinhong we returned to a different area, and after some preparation time, spread a net over an entire grape patch. The patch was about ¼ of an acre in size, rectangular, and each line of vines had a roof of clear plastic tarp (so they wouldn’t get so much rot damage from the summer rains). However it was a bit late to be spreading the net as the vines and leaves also extended up on both sides of the covered area, and I was the only person tall enough to work without a rod with a small scoop on the end to push the net over the top of each hump of tarp-roof. The crew was Jinhong’s aunt (a grandmother of 65 or so), Jinhong’s cousin’s wife (a Vietnamese picture bride I met last year, very nice with heavily accented Korean), Jinhong, Karjam and I. As soon as we got the net over the first row (the hardest row to get it over, for sure) it began to rain cats and dogs and then horses and elephants. I have never been wetter in my life, except perhaps when in 8th grade I was rolled around by rough waves in Baja until I was coughing up water. Water was in my ears. Water was in my nose. Water was everywhere. And of course allover me and staying that way, since I was fully dressed. The raindrops were huge and fat and heavy as pebbles. I had to look up to grab the net standing on my tiptoes and pull it down into the gap between the previous covered row and the yet uncovered row, my glasses were running with water to an extent that I could hardly see the white net against the white/grey cloud-cover. We worked this way laughing and screaming in the rain for about an hour until the entire patch was covered. Then we went back to Jinhong’s aunt and uncle’s house for towels (which I used on my clothes as well as exposed arms and face and hair). Slightly dry we drove back to Jinhong and Georgy’s where I promptly but somewhat ironically took a (warm) shower.
Photos: the grape patch we were in in the afternoon before we started work and the rain began.